The mystery of the moment is that it opens all moments. I know this in a felt way because of the brief and total feelings of Oneness I have fallen into during my life. This can be affirmed but never verified. It is something to be experienced, not proved. Life presents itself constantly through the miracle of the smallest part containing the whole while the Infinite Whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. It is we who fall in and out of our awareness and experience of Oneness. In the same way the eye dilates and constricts, our sense of being opens and closes. It is the way the soul breathes on Earth. These openings and closings are not to be judged or censured, any more than we would censure exhaling over inhaling. We need both to live.
Most of the practices extolled by the spiritual traditions are aimed at restoring our openness of being, so we might fall into the mystery of the moment. Repeatedly, we chance to experience the eternal perspective animated by entering any moment completely enough that it reveals the vibrant pulse of all life. Even when blessed to experience this, we often don’t know what to do with this blessing. Do we quit our job? Sometimes. Do we stop denying the love we feel? Hopefully. Do we deny the undeniable fragility of life that is never far from us? Often. Mostly thought we are simply asked to be awake, to stay awake, to live more compassionately, to be more aware.
Once we are exposed to the power of being in the moment, it is easy to want to stay there. But what does this really mean? I can only speak from my own experience. The life-force waiting in the moment helped me survive cancer. It was only in the moment that I was free of fear, because fear lives in the future and calls us to it. Between the fear of trying to anticipate where cancer was leading me and the exhausted peace of collapsing in the moment, I came to understand that I couldn’t think my way out of cancer. But from the eternal perspective opened to me in each moment, I could inhabit the inner resources to meet the journey as it was unfolding. What has stayed with me all these years is that I experience the moment with my heart and the future with my mind.
It’s common to get distracted by working to stay in the moment above all else, but these blessings of complete immersion will happen. We don’t have to work at them. I’m learning that when present in the moment, I view life more deeply. I meet life through an awakened sensibility, and I make more peaceful decisions. From the experience of Oneness that the moment opens, I am engaged with my heart and consider life choices from that felt, eternal perspective. When tripping along the gravel of circumstance, not able to to enter any moment, I am engaged with my mind, trying to stay alert, trying to negotiate the obstacles of life without falling.
From the press of isolated experience, the mind feeling out of control tries to control everything. From the felt knowledge of the web of life, the heart tries to participate in the rush of life of which it is a part. Like all of us, I struggle with both: trying to control what happens and trying to participate in what happens. Today I feel clear enough to share these reflections. But if this makes sense to you, please remind me when you find me next week stirring my coffee nervously, staring off into the future, biting my lip.
~Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen